Consumers responsible for 'bad press'


16 August 2023
Australian university and columnist sing the praises of potatoes and say country's eating habits need more consideration.

AUSTRALIAN consumer habits are at the root of bad press surrounding potatoes, according to a leading news source and university in the country.

Susie Burrell of the Sydney Herald's 'Good Food' recently sought to beat some of the common food myths Australians are taken in by, with potatoes being the main subject, alongside skimmed milk, eggs, gluten-free products and olive oil.

A dietary staple for thousands of years, a small, whole potato contains roughly 100 calories, 20 grams of total carbohydrate along with a couple of grams of dietary fibre and protein, Susie stressed in her article.

"While the carbohydrate in potato has a higher glycemic index (the ranking of carbohydrates based on their effect on blood sugar levels) than some other high-carbohydrate foods, potatoes are ranked as one of the most filling and satisfying foods you can eat," she said.

"There is also no scientific evidence to show that the regular consumption of potatoes is associated with weight gain. One study, published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, followed participants who were instructed to consume five to seven serves of potato each week. It found regular potato consumption had no adverse effect on weight loss."

Seeking to bust the myth that "Potatoes are fattening", Susie pointed out that consumer habits had more to do with associated weight gain than potatoes themselves.

"Rather, the primary issue with potato consumption is that more than half the potatoes consumed in Australia are processed – made into potato chips or deep-fried to make fries and hot chips, which not only adds much extra fat and calories, but also means you lose the natural nutrient profile and satiating effects of eating a potato whole," she said.

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"This explains why it is difficult to overconsume a whole potato, but you can down hundreds of calories worth of French fries in minutes. The issue with potatoes is not the humble spud itself. Rather, it is with how we choose to eat it."

New Edith Cowan University (ECU) research has also shown that while spuds may not have all the same benefits as some other vegetables — such as lowering risk of Type 2 diabetes — health issues associated with potatoes may actually be down to how people are preparing them and what they’re eating them with.

The researchers said boiled potatoes (not mashed or fried) were no longer associated with a higher risk of diabetes - they had a null effect.

The study found people who ate the most potatoes also consumed more butter, red meat and soft drink — foods known to increase risk of Type 2 diabetes. It’s only fries and mashed potatoes that are a health problem, it pointed out, with the latter likely because it is usually made with butter, cream, and the like.

Overall, the study indicated vegetables could play a key role in reducing Type 2 diabetes, as people who ate a lot of leafy greens and cruciferous vegies such as spinach, lettuce, broccoli, and cauliflower had a significantly lower risk of developing the condition.

The researchers recommended the relationship between vegetables and diabetes should be incorporated into public dietary guidelines — as should the benefits of eating potatoes.

Sources: National Seniors Australia and The Sydney Morning Herald   Photo: Immo Wegmann

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